Nursery cuts court battle

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
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Parents campaigning against Sheffield Council’s cuts to funding for children’s centres are seeking a judicial review of the changes.

If it goes ahead, the court case would be a second judicial review of controversial savings plans by the authority - after protesters fighting closure of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre were granted a full court hearing next month.

The council has withdrawn its childcare subsidy grant from 20 nurseries as it makes changes to its early years service to save £6.8 million in 2013/14.

The nurseries will instead receive cash directly from the Government based on numbers enrolled from the autumn, but the managers of some sites fear they will have to close in the meantime.

Lawyers appointed by the parents believe the consultation was ‘flawed’ and have served papers to the High Court in Manchester seeking the judicial review.

Douglas Johnson, from Sheffield Law Centre, representing the mums and dads involved, said: “We’re acting on behalf of four parents, but of course there are parents all over the city in the areas where these centres are that are going to be affected by loss of service.”

Genine Nuttall, deputy manager of Tinsley Green Nursery, one of the children’s centres left fearing for the future, said: “The revenue that is brought in from the children was used to keep the building going, but the local authority paid the service charge which meant that we could stay afloat.

“That money has now been withdrawn which means we can’t be sustainable anymore.

“We’ve all been issued with our redundancy letters, but it looks as though we’ll be okay until July.”

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said the authority did not ‘consider it appropriate to comment in detail on legal cases’.

Sheffield Council’s cuts to early years services caused a storm of protest when announced, with parents protesting at the Town Hall.

Changes to early years services also include cuts of £3.5 million from Sure Start centres but the council has pledged none will close.